FAYETTEVILLE — There won’t be any more drama about who will lead Arkansas football in 2024. Best of Arkansas Sports has confirmed with the UA a report by 247Sports’ Matt Zemitz that Sam Pittman will return in 2024:
No doubt, this news helps with Arkansas’ efforts in keeping a recruiting class together that at one time was rated around No. 20 in the nation.
The Hogs have already lost one four-star commit amid their 4-7 season and are in danger of losing more, so Pittman is desperately trying to keep the talented group together.
“When we start talking about firing and all of this, it kills us in recruiting,” Pittman said on Saturday night following Arkansas’ 44-20 win over FIU. “It does, especially when we fabricate stories and put it out, it kills us in recruiting. We give opinions about who’s coming in, all those type things, it kills us.”
Now, questions of who will be in charge for one more season, at least, are eliminated. How things pan out for the class of 2025 recruiting and beyond remains to be seen, Pittman will likely enter next season remaining on the hot seat.
More from Arkansas vs FIU
Linebacker Antonio Grier and cornerback Kee’yon Stewart each started in the Razorbacks’ 44-20 win over FIU at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, replacing usual starters Jaheim Thomas and Dwight McGlothern, respectively.
It was the second start of the year for both Grier and Stewart, as they also started the Alabama game. Unlike that day, though, these starts weren’t necessitated by injuries.
Thomas, a transfer from Cincinnati, started the first 10 games of the season and is Arkansas’ leading tackler by a wide margin with 87 — a total that includes 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. However, he didn’t get on the field until late in the third quarter, with Grier — a South Florida transfer — starting and sophomore Jordan Crook rotating in before Thomas.
Asked if Thomas was dealing with an injury or something, Pittman said it was a coach’s decision.
“We just thought Grier had a good week,” Pittman said. “We thought he earned the right to start. Jaheim is a good player for us and hopefully he’ll get back next week and help us.”
McGlothern, a second-year transfer from LSU, has been in and out of the lineup throughout the season. That is partly due to a couple of injuries, but also because Pittman hasn’t been pleased with his practice habits — despite him being graded as the best cornerback in college football by Pro Football Focus.
Pittman said Stewart — a transfer from TCU — got the nod Saturday because McGlothern got banged up during the week, indicating he missed practice time. However, he was healthy enough to enter the game on the third series and, according to PFF, play 46 of 61 defensive snaps.
“Nudie was hurt,” Pittman said. “Nudie got hurt on Tuesday at practice and so that’s basically why.”
Rare Off Day for Cam Little
For the last three years, Arkansas football fans have been almost spoiled by Cam Little.
Any time he comes out to attempt a field goal, it’s almost an automatic three points for the Razorbacks. After all, he’s the most accurate kicker in school history.
That’s what made Saturday so shocking, as he missed back-to-back kicks — from 34 and 48 yards — in the third quarter, pushing them wide right. Both of those, as well as a 31-yarder that just snuck inside the right upright in the second quarter, were on the north end of the field.
Little did bounce back by making field goals from 39 and 41 yards out on the south end in the fourth quarter, though, and Sam Pittman doesn’t sound too concerned about his star kicker, who’s ranked as the top kicker available in the 2024 NFL Draft as a junior by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
“I tell you what, you’re really good when you miss a couple and people talk about you — and he is,” Pittman said. “I don’t think it was anything. I think he’s not Superman. He’s close. He’s super. I’m not worried about it.”
Even with the two misses, Little is still 20 of 24 (83.3%) on the season and 53 of 64 (82.8%) in his career. He’s still well ahead of Connor Limpert (78.6%) on the UA’s all-time list.
Throw in four PATs and he scored another 13 points Saturday night. That gives him 286 career points, which moved past Steve Little for second-most among kickers in school history. He trails only Zach Hocker, who scored 354 points during his four seasons with the Razorbacks.
Arkansas Ground Game Dominates
Sure, it wasn’t against an SEC foe, but Arkansas ran all over FIU on Saturday, piling up a season-high 323 rushing yards. The Razorbacks’ previous high was 226 yards at Florida a couple of weeks earlier.
Ten different players ran the ball at least once and Arkansas nearly had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time this year. However, quarterback KJ Jefferson finished with 90 yards and the Razorbacks had to settle for just their second 100-yard rusher of the season.
Surprisingly, that player was freshman Isaiah Augustave, who ran for 101 yards on 14 carries in his first significant collegiate action. He eclipsed the century mark on his final carry of the day, joining Rocket Sanders – who had 103 yards at Florida – as the only Arkansas players to accomplish that in 2023.
“I was proud of Isaiah,” Pittman said. “He ran unbelievable. We handed it off one time to what really should have been a dead play and he got 12 yards.”
The second-leading rusher among running backs was Dominique Johnson, whose 62-yard performance was highlighted by a 31-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-2 play.
It was his first trip to the end zone since a 1-yard plunge against Alabama almost exactly two years earlier, as he hasn’t quite been the same since tearing his ACL twice.
“I’m sure he was really excited about it,” Pittman said. “His face was glowing when he came off the field. There was a pretty big hole there and he just ran straight ahead to the goal line, but I’m really happy for him.”
Arkansas Football Injury Report
One reason Isaiah Augustave and Dominique Johnson ended up getting as much work as they did is because both Rocket Sanders and Rashod Dubinion went down with injuries in the first half.
Sanders hurt his shoulder on the Razorbacks’ opening drive and Dubinion went down later in the first quarter with a knee injury. Neither player returned and both ended up watching the rest of the game in street clothes.
Pittman did not have an update on the status of either one when asked postgame.
Arkansas was also without a pair of starters, as right tackle Patrick Kutas missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain and Jaylon Braxton was out with a shoulder injury suffered late in last week’s loss to Auburn. Backup defensive end Jashaud Stewart didn’t dress out, either.
Although he never got in the game, backup cornerback Jaheim Singletary appeared to be available because he went through pregame warmups.